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Bush to pitch climate-change goal

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WASHINGTON — President Bush, stepping into the debate over global warming, plans to announce on Wednesday a national goal for stopping the growth of greenhouse gas emissions over the next few decades.

In a speech in the Rose Garden, Bush will lay out a strategy rather than a specific proposal for curbing emissions, White House press secretary Dana Perino said Tuesday. She did not disclose details of his announcement and would not say whether the president would propose any kind of mandatory cap on greenhouse gas emissions.

The president wants every major economy, including fast-growing nations like China and India, to establish a national goal for cutting the emissions believed responsible for global warming.

In his remarks, Perino said, Bush will articulate a "realistic intermediate goal" for the United States. Bush will emphasize the importance of offering incentives to promote technology as an effective way to reduce green house gas emissions, she said.

Bush's announcement is expected to go beyond what he said in 2002. Then, he set a goal of reducing the growth of greenhouse gas emissions, while taking into account economic expansion. His critics argued that would still allow actual emissions to rise as the economy grew.

The White House search for a new climate proposal comes amid growing indication that mandatory action to address global warming is highly likely — if not now, in the next year or so. At the same time, the administration is facing growing pressure to regulate carbon dioxide under the federal clean air law.

The Environmental Protection Agency has been told by the Supreme Court that carbon dioxide, the leading greenhouse gas, is a pollutant and must be regulated if the EPA determines it is a danger to health and welfare.

At the same time, the Interior Department is under pressure to give polar bears special protection under the Endangered Species Act because of disappearing Arctic sea ice. A lawsuit has been filed under the same law for more protection for arctic seals.

Together these cases would pull the enforcement of the Clean Air Act and the Endangered Species Act into the debate over climate change.

"Recent court decisions hold the very real prospect that the federal government will regulate greenhouse gas emissions with or without a new law being passed," Perino said. "To us, having unelected bureaucrats regulating greenhouse gases, at the direction of unelected judges, is not the proper way to address the issue."

She said Bush also is to talk about his concerns with legislative proposals likely to be considered during Senate debate in June. Perino called the legislative proposals "unrealistic" and said they would have a negative impact on the U.S. economy.

"We believe there's a right way and a wrong way to address this problem," Perino said, adding that there is no legislative proposal on Capitol Hill that the administration supports.

The speech comes a day before a meeting Thursday and Friday in Paris of the world's largest carbon polluters. Representatives from more than a dozen countries are expected to attend the meeting, the third in a series of talks that Bush organized last year.

A new global warming pact is being crafted to succeed the first phase of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. It requires 37 industrialized nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions an average of 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. The United States is the only industrialized nation not to have ratified Kyoto, but it agreed with nearly 200 other nations at a conference in Bali in December to negotiate a new agreement by the end of 2009.